Know Your Ministers: Samuel Sipepa Nkomo
April 17, 2009
With Conrad Nyamutata
Nkomo, Samuel Sipepa (MDC): Minister of Water Resources and Development
SAMUEL Sipepa Nkomo, the Member of Parliament for Lobengula Constituency in Bulawayo, is a veteran of nationalist politics.
He joined the National Democratic Party (NDP) in 1960 and then ZAPU in 1961 becoming the party’s provincial secretary for Matebeleland. He was detained by the Ian Smith regime at Khami and Wha Wha Prisons for a total of 14 years.
He then left the country for Zambia.
Nkomo holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. He says he was employed in various companies as a certified financial accountant, a financial consultant and a chartered professional manager for various blue-chip companies.
After independence he became the chief executive officer of the Mining Industry Pension Fund (MIPF). He left the MIPF under a cloud in 2000 amid various allegations of serious corruption and fraud. The scandal was exposed by The Daily News, which had been launched only a few months earlier.
The newspaper followed an extensive paper trail and published documentation in December 1999 to support the allegations levelled against Nkomo.
He was arrested in February 2000 and appeared in court to face charges of corruption and fraud. The major charge against Nkomo was that in 1997 he corruptly awarded the tender for the management of Angwa City, a new high-rise building under construction in Harare, to his friend Trevor Carelse-Juul’s company, SBT Juul Africa.
The case was withdrawn by the state without plea, in the absence of a key witness, flamboyant businessman Carelse Juul, after he fled to South Africa.
In a twist of irony, Nkomo resurfaced in 2002 as executive chairman of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, publishers of the very paper that had caused his downfall at MIPF, The Daily News.
The Daily News disappeared from the streets in December 2002, a few months after his appointment. Nkomo had refused to award members of staff a salary increase earlier agreed with the workers’ committee. Employees went on strike and The Daily News was not published for six days. In quick succession Nkomo fired the Editor-in-Chief, Geoffrey Nyarota, and then failed to register the newspaper in terms of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). Both the dismissal and the refusal to register were without the required of authorisation of the ANZ board. Nyarota had advanced non-ANZ loans to desperate employees over Christmas after Nkomo went on holiday leaving unpaid workers on strike.
The newspaper was banned a few months later in September 2003 and has remained defunct since then. Nkomo told a meeting recently that the paper would never be published again. The newspaper was accused in government and Zanu-PF circles as being partisan on behalf of the MDC. Its printing press was bombed in January 2001. The police never investigated.
In 2005 Nkomo went into active politics with the MDC. When the party split in October 2005 Nkomo aligned with the breakaway faction led by secretary general Welshman Ncube. Nkomo was appointed the faction’s deputy director of elections. In that capacity he participated in the controversial November 2005 Senate elections, representing Tsholotsho-Hwange constituency.
He lost the election to a Zanu-PF candidate. A few months later, in April 2006, Nkomo resigned from the faction, which was now under the leadership of Prof Arthur Mutambara and rejoined the mainstream MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
Nkomo whose resignation had been announced by ANZ when he left to go into politics suddenly returned to what was left of the company. He announced that he had never resigned from ANZ in the first place, adding that he was still very much in charge. In fact Nkomo had been fired by the board.
On Nkomo’s return, finance director Brian Mutsau, who was acting chief executive pending confirmation immediately resigned. This happened after he had sustained multiple stab wounds in the back on the company premises.
The state suddenly revived Nkomo’s old court case in May 2006 when he was brought to court again. He claimed in court that he had been framed by two prominent Harare businessmen to fix him for refusing to invest in their respective companies.
“The forces behind the charges are not merely police but persons with an agenda. As a principal officer I was responsible for investing the (MIPZ) pensioners’ funds. Phillip Chiyangwa and Mutumwa Mawere approached me,” Nkomo told the court.
He said Chiyangwa had wanted Nkomo to invest in his G and D Shoes, a company the flamboyant businessman had acquired in Bulawayo. Nkomo said Mawere had, on the other hand, been anxious that MIPF invest in a hospital at his Shabanie Mashava Mine. The asbestos mine was subsequently taken over by the government
Meanwhile Nkomo’s lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that it was ultra vires the constitution for the state to pursue their client’s case six years after he had been placed on remand.
Nkomo has never challenged The Daily News allegations of corruption and fraud on his part.
In March 2008 Nkomo was elected Member of Parliament representing the
Tsvangirai-led MDC in the constituency of Lobengula in Bulawayo.
In February he was appointed Minister of Water Resources and Development in the coalition government. He faces the mammoth task of restoring water supplies after years of frequent water cuts throughout the country as a result of mismanagement.
Nkomo, 63, is a father of six children, four of them with his former wife Nomagwetha. Last year a Bulawayo newspaper and a number of online publications reported that Nkomo was divorcing Nomagwetha after 35 years of marriage.
He was reported to have moved out of the family home in Harare and relocated to Bulawayo where he moved in with one Roselyn Xaba. She was reported to be divorcing her husband of 30 years, a Bulawayo businessman.
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